Cassava mealybug awareness campaign launched in Vietnam

15 July, 2015 by (comments)

By Yen Le Hoang

A campaign to raise awareness about the destructive cassava mealybug has been launched in Phu Yen Province, Vietnam. Organized by the local Plant Protection Sub-Department (PPSD) and the national Agricultural Extension Center, the launch was attended by representatives from departments of Agriculture and Rural Development, Extension and Plant Protection, the Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), farmers, cassava factory staff and the media.

The main purpose of the event was to raise awareness about cassava mealybug – a new invasive pest which is destroying more than 212 ha of cassava in the province – and to inform farmers and cassava factory representatives about proper ways of controlling mealybug infestations.

Farmers were advised about how to prevent mealybug infestations during the launch. Credit: I.Graziosi / CIAT

Farmers were advised about how to prevent mealybug infestations during the launch. Credit: I.Graziosi / CIAT

Many interventions were introduced by experts from various national institutions, and Dr. Ignazio Graziosi, a CIAT Asia research fellow, gave a presentation about the effect of A. lopezi, a parasitic wasps which attacks cassava mealybugs and has helped save cassava crops in many countries in Southeast Asia.

It is common practice for farmers to use pesticide to deter pests, but this practice is usually costly and may actually do more harm than good. CIAT suggested the use of biological control to prevent mealybug, specifically by conserving locally-occurring mealybug parasitoids and other natural enemies.

Outside the meeting room, there was an exhibition of mealybug-infested cassava plants to help farmers who haven’t had this pest on their fields better identify the invasive species. This knowledge, together with the recommended measures given during the event, will later enable farmers to spot mealybug infestations at an early stage and take proper actions to prevent mealybug from spreading.

Participants also surveyed fields in two different locations in the province to understand the presence and level of infestation of mealybug. Due to the prolonged drought, a large number of red mites were also spotted in the fields, but the main concern was still the heavy pink mealybug infestation.

Mealybug infested fields were examined during the awareness campaign. Credit: I.Graziosi / CIAT

Mealybug infested fields were examined during the awareness campaign. Credit: I.Graziosi / CIAT

 

The good news, said Dr. Graziosi, is that natural A. lopezi wasps were spotted in the fields with mealybugs. Even though the number is still limited, this is a good sign for future control of pink mealybugs in Phu Yen.

Phu Yen PPSD are leading control efforts by collecting and burning several infested cassava stakes – one of the recommended methods to fight pink mealybug. While having merits, this method is not without disadvantages: it’s costly, time consuming, and also can decrease the chance for A. lopezi to develop naturally.

Efforts are still being made to find the best methods to keep mealybug infestations to a minimum, and to disseminate the best knowledge available to as many farmers – and representatives of cassava processing plants and grower associations – as possible.

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Filed Under: Inside Asia, Inside CIAT